1963 – Senior White house aide Michael V. Forrestal advises President Kennedy to expect a long and costly war. ‘No one really knows how many of the 20,000 “Vietcong” killed last year were only innocent, or at least, persuadable, villagers, whether the strategic hamlet program is providing enough government services to counteract the sacrifices it requires, or how the mute class of villagers react to the charges against Diem of dictatorship and nepotism.’ he points out that Vietcong recruitment in South Vietnam is effective enough to continue the war without any infiltration from the North.
1962 – Secretary of Defense McNamara forwards a memorandum from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to President Kennedy which urges the deployment of US forces to Vietnam. Recapitulating the domino theory, the Joint Chiefs assert that failure to deploy now will only delay the time when it must be done,and will make the task more difficult.
1962 – The United States has installed a tactical air control system in South Vietnam and furnishes additional aircraft for combat and airlift support.
1963 – US helicopters are ordered to shoot first at enemy Soldiers while escorting government troops. Two days before, one US Soldier was killed when Vietcong ground-fire downs two of three US Army H-21 helicopters airlifting government Soldiers about 100 miles north of Saigon.
1962 – The 39th Signal battalion, a communications unit, is the first unit of US regular ground forces to arrive in Vietnam.
1962 – One hundred US troops of the Hawaiian-island based 25th infantry Division have reinforced military units in South Vietnam to serve as machine gunners aboard Army H-21 helicopters.
1962 – The first Marine air unit is sent to Vietnam. 15 Sikorsky UH-34D combat helicopters of the US 362nd Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM-362), arrive from the aircraft carrier Princeton. based near Soc Trang, 100 miles southwest of Saigon, the 450 Marines and their craft, as task unit dubbed ‘Shoofly’, reinforce the three US Army helicopter companies already in Vietnam, and carry supplies and troops to isolated or threatened villages and troop concentrations.
1962 – Twenty-nine US helicopters airlift about 600 Vietnamese troops to the Mekong Delta in Kein Phong Province (about 80 miles south of Saigon) to double the number of troops used in a mopping up operation there.
1962 – Around 5,000 troops (including US Special Forces, or Green Berets) are serving in South Vietnam,and there are a total of 124 US aircraft including two USAF C-123 squadrons and four helicopter companies. The Communists are forming battalion-sized units in several parts of central Vietnam.
1962 – Marine helicopter unit Shoofly (HMM-362) is replaced by HMM-163 after flying 50 combat troop lifts involving 130 landings against the Vietcong. The Marines suffer no casualties this tour. HMM-163 relocates at Danang in September.
1963 – Following attacks of the preceding two days on Buddhist populations by Diem and the resulting resignations of several high ranking Buddhist South Vietnamese officials, US Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge lands in Saigon and reports back to Washington that Diem’s brother, Nhu, is the architect of the attacks. Lodge confirms as well that Diem’s generals seek US support for a coup, but counsels prudence.
1963 – A policy decision reaches Lodge from Washington that Diem must be given a chance to remove his brother Nhu, but will himself have to go if he does not. Lodge is advised to pass this on to Diem’s generals, in effect assuring them of support for a coup against Diem if he does not remove Nhu.
1963 – Lodge meets with Diem for the first time. Diem refuses to drop Nhu, and refuses to discuss reforms. Lodge now presses the Kennedy administration, still badly divided over the issue of supporting a coup, to support the dissident generals. CIA Chief of Station-Saigon, John Richardson, agrees with Lodge, reporting ot Washington that the situation has reached a point of no return.
1963 – At a National Security Council meeting, Paul Kattenburg, just returned from Saigon, suggests that the United States is backing the wrong man in Diem, and that this might be a good time to get out of Vietnam honorably. Dean Rusk replies that the United States will stay until victorious, McNamara asserts that the United States is winning, and Lyndon Johnson suggests that the war be prosecuted vigorously. Subsequently, Kennedy wonders aloud whether any government in Saigon can successfully resist the Communists.
1963 – Kennedy cables Lodge, based on information from General Taylor that the dissident generals have called off their coup plans, that no encouragement of a coup should be made.
1963 – Three days after Kennedy orders Lodge not to pursue the encouragement of a coup that they though had been canceled, Lodge reports to Kennedy that the coup is on. General Minh, meeting with CIA officer Lucien Conein, asks for assurances that the US will not act to thwart a coup and that economic and military aid will continue. Kennedy approves, cautioning that the United States should avoind getting involved with operational details. Conein keeps in touch with rebel activity through meetings with General Tran Van Don. in the wake of another Buddhist monk’s self-immolation, intensified political repression including the arrest of scores of children and the reaction to it, US officials from Kennedy on down attempt to control US newsmen in Saigon without success. Lodge’s dismissal of Saigon CIA chief John Richardson, who has doubts about the coup, encourages the dissident generals.
1962 – Despite State Department denials, several sources report that US helicopter crewmen have begun to fire first on Vietcong formations encountered during missions with South Vietnamese troops.
1962 – Operation morning Star, a major South Vietnamese effort to clear Tayninh Province, north of Saigon near the Cambodian border, ends in failure. Five thousand South Vietnamese troops ferried by US helicopters kill 40 Vietcong in eight days and capture two others. One HU-1A attack helicopter is lost. US officials call the operation a waste and disclaim any responsibility for it.
1963 – The United Sates announces that it will deny funds to the Vietnamese Special Forces, which have been heavily use din attacks against the Buddhist populations, if they are used for purposes other than fighting the Vietcong, and will not renew the annual agreement supplying the government with surplus food which is sold to pay South Vietnamese troops.
1963 – Kennedy cables Lodge, instructing him to ask that the expected coup, already delayed a number of times, be postponed again. Lodge never delivers the message.
1963 – Dissidents organized by the key generals of the South Vietnamese Army lay siege to the presidential palace, which is captured by the following morning. Diem and Nhu at first believe the attack to be the opening of a counter-coup engineered by Nhu and General To That Dinh, who controls nearly all forces in and around Saigon, but Dinh has joined with the dissident generals. Diem is unable to summon any support, but he and Nhu manage to escape.
1963 – At about 0600, Diem begins negotiating with the generals, who have assured Lodge that Diem’s life will be spared. Diem finally agrees to surrender, and a US-build M113 armored personnel carrier is sent to pick him up with his brother, Nhu, form St. DFrancis Xavier Church in Cholon. Major Duong Huu Nghia and General Minh’s bodyguard, Captain Nhung, murder Diem and Nhu on their way to staff headquarters, at Minh’s order. President Kennedy is shocked. Saigon rejoices as prisoners are released. In the countryside, peasants demolish the strategic hamlets. Ambassador Lodge calls the insurgent generals to his office to congratulate them, and cables Kennedy that the prospects are for a shorter war. (added to existing entry)
1963 – A US military spokesman in Saigon reports that 1,000 US servicemen will be withdrawn from South Vietnam beginning 3 December.
1963 – Cambodia declares an end to all US military and economic aid. Sihanouk charges that the CIA is trying to oust him from power.
1963 – A US military spokesman in Saigon reports that guerrilla attacks on hamlets, outposts, and patrols in November have resulted in 2,800 government casualties and 2,900 Vietcong losses. The Vietcong have captured enough weapons to arm five 300-man battalions.
1963 – Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara arrives in Saigon to evaluate the new government’s war effort against the Vietcong. Publicly optimistic, in a complete about-face from the previous year, he privately tells Johnson that the situation is ‘very disturbing.’ McNamara feels that unless conditions change in the next two or three months, current rends ‘will lead to neutralization at best, or more likely, to a Communist controlled state.’
1963 – In his formal report to President Johnson, McNamara calls Operation Hardnose, which provides intelligence and disrupts Vietcong movements along the Laos corridor ‘remarkably effective,’ and urges its expansion.
1962 – Approximately 11,000 US advisory and support personnel are now in Vietnam, including 29 Special Forces detachments. One hundred and nine Americans have been killed or wounded this year, almost eight times as many as 1961. US Army aviation units have flown over 50,000 sorties, about one-half of which are combat support missions. China claims to have armed the Vietcong with more than 90,000 rifles and machine guns this year, and trained guerrilla forces in South Vietnam are estimated at 25,000, with active Vietcong sympathizers numbered at 150,000. The Vietcong are now killing or kidnapping 1,000 local officials per month. South Vietnamese government regular troops number 200,000 and 65,000 Self Defense Corps members have been trained to defend their villages.